Most dogs would probably be pretty happy with a warm bed, lots of treats and plenty of ear scratches. But, increasingly, that's not enough to make dog owners happy.
More and more, we're spoiling our pooches with Instagram-worthy luxury experiences previously reserved for two-legged members of the family. For some lucky mutts, a dog's life may include resort visits, pool parties or being an honored guest at a wedding. Some eat exotic gourmet food and live in doggie mansions.
It's no wonder that the amount of money Americans are devoting to pets has been hitting record highs. The American Pet Products Association (APPA) estimates that U.S. spending on pets in 2021 reached $123.6 billion. That's billion with a B. That represents a nearly 20% jump from pet spending in 2020, which was also a record-breaking year. To put that into perspective, that's nearly three times the amount Elon Musk was ready to pay to buy Twitter. It's also about
30 times the amount the U.S. government allocates each year to international programs that feed people in food-insecure countries.
But what's the cost of love, especially during stressful times? According to a 2021-2022 survey of pet owners by the APPA, three-quarters of pet parents say that spending time with their pet has helped to reduce their stress and increase their sense of well-being during the pandemic. The survey also estimated that 14% of U.S. households got a new pet during the pandemic and that 70% of households now own a pet. Here's a glimpse into the way we're pampering our pooches:
We humans used to be happy with a plate of cold cuts and crackers, but now we need an aesthetically pleasing arrangement of meats, cheeses, fruits and other snacks on a fancy wooden platter and a fancier French name. Voilà: the charcuterie board.
Not surprisingly, there's now a canine version called the barkuterie board.
Minneapolis dog owner Maggie Skrypek made one earlier this year with celery, carrots, cucumbers, cheese, berries, nuts, kibble and "meat topper" powder for a joint celebration of the one-year "adoption day" anniversary of her Boston terrier, Poppy, and Poppy's sister, Rosie, owned by Peter and Paige Matheson, also of Minneapolis.
"We did it to be special, because it's a celebratory day," Skrypek says.
"This is definitely for us, the humans," Peter Matheson says.
Not skilled enough to curate your own barkuterie board?
You can outsource the job to Rebecca Jackson, a chef and owner of barkuteriebox.com, a Lakeville-area company that sells stylish barkuterie boxes and dog-oriented crudité snacks like biscuits made with liver pâté, beef hearts, beets, blueberries, apples and oat and chickpea flour. There's even a dog friendly Easter egg made with peanut butter and oats covered with chocolate free carob.
Product prices range from $13 to $45.
"It's fun for us humans to give them something that looks good and smells good," Jackson says of her barkuterie boxes.
See also the Atlanta area barkuterieboards.com, which for $40 and up can ship you a board featuring "novel proteins" like bison, dehydrated shrimp, dried mussels, beef tripe and duck feet. For a little extra, your dog treats will arrive in a custom wooden box or a dim sum steamer container.
"It's art. It's food styling," says owner Amanda Yu-Nguyen.
The water's fine
Sure, your dog can jump in a local lake if it wants to go swimming. But a more elegant option is to attend a pool party at a private country club.
For the last seven years, the Home For Life animal sanctuary has been holding a doggie pool party at the Town & Country Club's heated outdoor pool overlooking the Mississippi River in St. Paul.
The fundraising event is open to the public and held at the beginning of September, the day before the pool is drained for the winter.
Tickets, available at homeforlife.org, sell out every year. For $60, you and your dog get to swim in the pool with dozens of other dogs and people or lounge on the deck chairs in a secure fenced area. There's music, a commemorative T-shirt and a buffet lunch.
"It is amazing how beloved the event is," says Lisa LaVerdiere, Home For Life founder and executive director. "People just want to swim with their dogs."
Goin' to the chapel
Who doesn't like dressing up fancy and seeing someone you care about get married? Now your dog can enjoy that experience, thanks to a new service offered by some Twin Cities companies.
Wedding pet attendants are basically a plus one date for your dog, a sort of chaperone combined with a chauffeur service for a four-legged wedding guest.
Companies like Happy Tailz and Doggy Social will get your dog to and from your wedding on your big day, help it pose for wedding photos, make sure it behaves while mingling with other guests and even walk it down the aisle to be a part of a ceremony if that's what you want.
Fees range from $300 to $700.
A portrait of Jennie
You probably have dozens of photos in your cellphone of your dog doing something adorable.
But someday you might want to have an image of your best friend that's good enough to hang over the mantle.
That's when you want to commission a local artist like Kat Corrigan (katcorrigan.com) , Hannah Frick (hannahfrickart.com), Leslie Plesser (shuttersmack.com) or Kristin Williams (kristinwilliams.com) to do a portrait of your pooch.
Costs run from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on the project.
A resort hotel
The floors are heated and so is the pool. There's classical music, purified air, a nature trail, fresh-baked biscuits, orthopedic mattresses and a bedtime story.
If your dog has to spend a night away from you, the Top Dog Country Club in New Germany, Minn., bills itself as a vacation club for dogs.
Owner Jean Stelten-Beuning says her sprawling 38-acre facility with more than 24,000 square feet of outdoor play yards draws guests from throughout the region and as far away as Chicago and St. Louis.
Rates run from $75 to $95 a night.
A room of one's own
In recent years, Hoffman Weber Construction of New Brighton has been building what it calls "doggy mansions," elaborate dog houses that could include a pool, fountain and a fireplace, for display at the Minnesota State Fair.
Their latest creation will be worth about $10,000, according to company president Mike Sample. But you can't buy it.
It was built as a giveaway for the Animal Humane Society's Walk for the Animals event.